Some “Forms of Speech . . . Are Not Protected”: Berkeley Professors Call For Boycott Of Free Speech Week

Seal_of_University_of_California,_Berkeley.svgWe have been discussing how faculty around the country are supporting the abandonment of free speech principles to bar speakers and speech with which they disagree. The most extreme form of this rejection of classical liberal values is the antifa movement.  We have seen faculty physically attack speakers or destroy messages that they oppose.  We have also seen faculty physically attacked and intimidated.  In some of these incidents, other faculty have supported students in shutting down speakers or fellow academics (here and here).  The latest example of faculty opposing free speech is a letter of over 200 University of California, Berkeley professors and faculty are calling for the shutdown of classes and activities during “free speech week.”  To the dismay of these professors, free speech week will include speakers with whom they disagree.  Thus, they have posted a letter that not only seeks a boycott of free speech but have proclaimed that certain speech (in this case speech they do not like) is unworthy of free speech protection.  Note the faculty and Ph.D students are calling for a boycott of classes and all campus activities, not just the speeches themselves.  Turning off the lights and fleeing the campus at the approach of opposing views hardly fits with the school’s motto of “Fiat Lux” (Let There Be Light).

Fortunately, the letter below does not include any law professors.

The letter captures the growing academic movement to curtail free speech on campus, supporting ever expanding notions of microaggressions and prohibited speech.  The letter contains the common references to conservative speakers as threatening the physical and mental well-being of faculty, students, and staff.

“We recognize that as a public institution, we are legally bound by the Constitution to allow all viewpoints on campus. However, there are forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment. These include speech that presents imminent physical danger and speech that disrupts the university’s mission to educate.”

What speech causes imminent physical danger?  The violence at Berkeley has been largely the result of counter-protesters fueled by faculty like this who legitimize anti-speech activities.  Putting that aside, these professors would adopt a rule allowing the denial of speech that they deem “disruptive.”  That passes for principle among these faculty members.

The boycott contains the same reference to speech harming students by expressing thoughts with which they disagree:

“As faculty we cannot ask students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety in order to attend class or come to work in an environment of harassment, intimidation, violence, and militarized policing.”

The faculty members blame the university for allowing the free expression of opposing views:

If the administration insists upon allowing the Alt-Right to occupy the center of our campus for four days to harass, threaten and intimidate us, as they did during Milo’s visit in February, then faculty cannot teach, staff cannot work and students cannot learn

That line is particularly revealing.  As I previously discussed, the “anti-fascists” on our campuses seem strangely fascistic in their views in demanding the silencing of opposing views.  Here the mere fact that conservatives are speaking on campus is deemed a form of harassment, threats, and intimidation.  The telling inclusion of this language highlights the danger of microaggression and speech prohibitions which often use the same subjective and ill-defined terms.  Seminars and handouts on campus proscribe such microaggressions as saying  “There is only one race, the human race,” “America is the land of opportunity,” or asking “why are you so quiet?” Berkeley also defines hate speech as “any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display that may incite violence or prejudicial action against someone based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, gender, gender identity, ethnicity …”  As for expression of bias to be reported, this can include any “general communication not directed toward a particular individual, which disparages a group of people on the basis of some characteristic ….”

This letter however reveals how anti-free speech views have become mainstream with faculty who want universities to bar speech (particularly conservative speech) as threatening to the university as a whole.  What is embarrassing is the low-grade logic of these letters.  There is little effort to go beyond the premise of how some-speech-makes-us-ill rationale.  The scope of permitted scope simply becomes a majoritarian decision.  At the same time, these professor are telling students that they legitimately fail mentally and physically threatened by being exposed to opposing views.  If our students are becoming “snowflakes,” the below are the snow makers.

Here is the letter: Berkeley Letter


September 24-27th

A letter from UCB Faculty to the Campus and Berkeley Community

To sign the letter, click here.


While there has still not been an official announcement from campus administrators, we are learning that from September 24th to 27th,  the University of California at Berkeley will provide a platform to Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Stephen K. Bannon, Breitbart media and their far right audience. A series of explicitly violent Alt-Right, militia and pro-Fascist events are also, again, being scheduled for Civic Center / MLK park in downtown Berkeley on those days.


Once more, signs point towards an escalated and uncontrollable confrontation both on and off campus during these four days. The history of these events has been chilling. Since Inauguration Day, Alt-Right followers have shot someone at the University of Washington, stabbed two people to death on public transport in Portland, stabbed to death a college senior in Maryland, beaten numerous nonviolent protesters at the University of Virginia, and most recently murdered a peaceful protester with an automobile in Charlottesville. Most immediately troubling, given Trump’s decision to end DACA, is that these forces have publicly expressed their intent to specifically target “sanctuary campuses” and disclose the identity of undocumented students. As concerned faculty members, we cannot remain silent while students, staff, colleagues, and fellow community members are threatened.


Therefore, as faculty committed to the safety of our students and our campus, we are calling for a complete boycott of all classes and campus activities while these Alt-Right events are taking place at the very center of UC Berkeley’s campus. As faculty we cannot ask students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety in order to attend class or come to work in an environment of harassment, intimidation, violence, and militarized policing. The reality is that particularly vulnerable populations (DACA students, non-white, gender queer, Muslims, disabled, feminists, and others) have already been harmed, and are reporting increased levels of fear and anxiety about the upcoming events, the increased police presence on our campus, and how all this will impact their lives and their studies.


It is not just physical violence that our campus faces from this media circus. Many of these provocateurs’ most committed audiences are online, and the Breitbart media machine uses that audience to harass, cyberbully, and threaten anyone who speaks out against them. Students and faculty on our campus have already had their lives threatened for speaking out against Milo and his followers. Online threats are real threats, and if we allow this intolerant and bullying version of free speech to take over our campus, then it can only but come at the expense of the free speech rights of the Berkeley community as a whole. In fact, campus safety concerns have already forced the Anthropology Department to cancel a public talk during “free speech week.” This makes clear that the administration understands the imminent threat to campus safety while also revealing that the loud demands of the Alt-Right has the effect of silencing members of our campus community.


We recognize that as a public institution, we are legally bound by the Constitution to allow all viewpoints on campus. However, there are forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment. These include speech that presents imminent physical danger and speech that disrupts the university’s mission to educate. Milo, Coulter and Bannon do not come to educate; they and their followers come to humiliate and incite. If the administration insists upon allowing the Alt-Right to occupy the center of our campus for four days to harass, threaten and intimidate us, as they did during Milo’s visit in February, then faculty cannot teach, staff cannot work and students cannot learn.


We refuse to grant the Alt-Right the media spectacle that they so desperately desire. This strategy responds to the concerns voiced in the letter authored by the chairs of the three departments most impacted–Gender & Women’s Studies, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies – and also follows the lead of the SPLC advice to ignore these agitators. As faculty, we reject both the administration’s rhetoric of false equivalency that all speech – including “hate speech” – merits value and respect and also the impulse to see direct confrontation as the only strategy of resistance. A boycott of all campus activities during these days is the only responsible course of action.


Therefore we are calling upon faculty to take the following steps:

  1. Cancel classes and tell students to stay home. A boycott of classes affirms that our fundamental responsibility as faculty is to protect the safety and well being of all our students. While we understand the argument that canceling classes might be seen as a penalty to students who want to learn–by holding class when some students CAN NOT attend by virtue of their DACA status and the imminent threat that these campus events hold, faculty who DO hold classes are disadvantaging DACA students and others who will feel threatened by being on campus.


  1. Close buildings, close departments and let staff stay home. If the campus is unsafe for student learning then it is unsafe for staff members to work. We should work with campus maintenance and building managers to close as many departments and buildings as possible, starting with those in the immediate vicinity of Sproul Plaza. No one should be forced to work surrounded by men with clubs, police with guns and the sting of teargas.


  1. Faculty who decide to hold class during this week, in the face of these explicit threats, should not penalize students who are afraid to come to campus. It is unfair and discriminatory for faculty to schedule exams or require attendance during this week. Such an expectation forces students to choose between their physical safety, their mental well being, and a grade. Consider making a video lecture available, give the students a take-home assignment, or creating another alternative class plan.  If you decide you must hold class, please do it away from campus, away from the Telegraph Avenue point of campus entry, and away from Downtown.


The Administration, in failing to halt these events, has left concerned faculty with no other choice than to act to prevent further harm to our community. We urge you to join us in keeping our students and our campus safe by signing on to this call for a campus-wide- boycott.

In Solidarity,

To add your name to this letter,  follow this link and sign at the bottom.




Michael Mark Cohen

Associate Teaching Professor, American Studies and African American Studies


Leigh Raiford,

Associate Professor, African American Studies


Juana María Rodríguez

Professor, Ethnic Studies


Charis Thompson

Chancellor’s Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society


Leslie Salzinger

Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies


Jeffrey Skoller

Associate Professor, Film and Media


Natalia Brizuela

Associate Professor, Spanish & Portuguese and Film and Media


Julia Bryan-Wilson

Professor, History of Art


Allan Desouza

Associate Professor & Chair, Art Practice


Ramona Naddaff

Associate Professor, Rhetoric


Peter Glazer

Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies


Mary Ann Doane

Class of 1937 Professor of Film & Media


Anne Walsh

Associate Professor, Art Practice


Jake Kosek

Associate Professor, Geography


Stephanie Syjuco

Assistant Professor, Art Practice


Mel Y. Chen

Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies


Cori Hayden

Associate Professor, Anthropology


Gregory Levine

Professor, Art and Architecture of Japan and Buddhist Visual Cultures


James Vernon

Professor, Department of History


Samera Esmeir

Associate Professor, Rhetoric


Victoria E. Robinson

Lecturer, Ethnic Studies


john a. Powell

Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society


Paola Bacchetta

Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies


Minoo Moallem

Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies


Déborah Blocker
Associate Professor, Department of French


Carlos Muñoz, Jr.

Edward A. Dickson Distinguished Emeriti Professor, Ethnic Studies


Patricia Penn Hilden

Professor Emerita, Ethnic Studies


Chris Zepeda-Millan

Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies


Mark Goble

Associate Professor, English


Keith P. Feldman

Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies


Nadia Ellis

Associate Professor, English


Nikki Jones

Associate Professor, African American Studies


Susan Schweik,

Professor, English


Geoffrey G. O’Brien

Associate Professor, English

Richard B. Norgaard

Professor Emeritus, Energy and Resources Group


Rachel Morello-Frosch

Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management & School of Public Health


Emily O’Rourke

Rhetoric, GSI


Beezer de Martelly

PhD Candidate, Music/Ethnomusicology


Laleh Behbehanian

Lecturer, Dept. Of Sociology


Suzanne Guerlac

Professor, French Department


Ivonne del Valle

Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese


Simon Rogghe

GSI, French Department


Joni Spigler

ABD, History of Art Dept


Soraya Tlatli

Associate Professor, French


Eric Peterson

PhD Student, Dept. of Architecture


Akua Ofori

Postdoctoral Scholar


Ayse Agis

Continuing Lecturer, Gender and Women’s Studies


Maria Faini

CRG Specialist/PhD Candidate: Ethnic Studies/Critical Theory


Scott Hewicker

Lecturer, First Year Program


Caroline Lemak Brickman

PhD candidate, Slavic Dept.


Sima Belmar

Lecturer, TDPS


Bryan Wagner

Associate Professor, English


Ian Duncan,

Professor of English


Joshua Anderson

GSI, English


Todd P. Olson

Professor, History of Art


Donna Honarpisheh

Comparative Literature


Anne-Lise Francois

Associate Professor, Comparative Literature & English


Manuel Rosaldo

PhD Candidate, Sociology


Jovan Lewis

Assistant Professor, Geography and African-American Studies


Alex Bush

PhD Candidate, Film & Media


Seth Holmes

Public Health and Medical Anthropology


Maya Kronfeld

PhD Candidate Comparative Literature


Johnathan Vaknin

PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature


Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda

East Asian Languages and Cultures


Kathryn Levine

Ph.D. Candidate, French


Hallie Wells

PhD Candidate, Anthropology


Daniel Benjamin

GSI, English


Ernest Artiz

GSI, Department of English


Christian Nagler

PhD Candidate, Theater, Dance & Performance Studies


Zachary Levenson

Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology


Abigail De Kosnik

Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies


Lida Zeitlin Wu

PhD candidate, Film & Media


Elias Lawliet

PhD student, Jurisprudence and Social Policy


John Mundell

PhD student, African American & African Diaspora Studies


Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguised Professor of Arts and Humanities, History of Art


Peter Teichner

Professor of Mathematics


Pedro Rolon

GSI/ Ph.D. student, Comparative Literature


Alex Brostoff

GSI and PhD student, Comparative Literature


Alex Brostoff

GSI and PhD student, Comparative Literature


Melina Packer

PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy & Management


Maria Tonione

PhD candidate


Diana Ruiz

PhD student/GSI, Film & Media


Xiao Yun Chang

MS Transportation Engineering / Master of City Planning. CEE / DCRP


Alex Thomas



Christy Getz

Cooperative Extension Specialist, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management


Stefannia Mambelli

Integrative Biology


Margaret Jones

Ph.D. Candidate/Music


Kavleen Singh

Political Science


Lauren Kroiz

Associate Professor, History of Art


Juliet Rose Kunkel

PhD student, School of Education


Kristen Sun

GSI, Ethnic Studies


Paul De Morais

PhD candidate, Comparative Literature


Andrew Pastor

Lab Manager, School of Public Health


Tess Peppers

EWMBA Student, Haas School of Business


Patrick Baur

Postdoctoral Fellow, ESPM


Xavier Perrone

Programs Manager – Center for Latino Policy Research


Andrew Sharo

PhD Candidate, Biophysics


Patrick Harrison

PhD Student, Film & Media


Omar Gutiérrez del Arroyo

PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy & Management


Julie Pyatt

PhD in Environmental Sci, Pol. & Mngmt.


Christina Azahar

Ph.D. Candidate/GSI, Music


Jacob Wolbert

Graduate Student, Music––––


Giancarlo Cornejo

PhD Candidate/Rhetoric


Sarah Cowan

PhD Candidate, History of Art


Lou Silhol-Macher

PhD Student, German


Harry Burson

PhD student/GSI, Film & Media


Rebecca Feinberg

PhD candidate, Anthropology


Jacob Raterman

Graduate Student/GSI, French Department


Katrin Wehrheim

Associate Professor, Mathematics


Adam Bazari

UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program


Mary Mussman

GSI and PhD Student, Comparative Literature


Kumars Salehi

PhD candidate/German


Lisa Jacobson

PhD Candidate and GSI, Film & Media


Whitney Mgbara

Phd candidate – Environmental Science, Policy, and Management


Debarati Sanyal

Professor, Department of French


Michael Song

PhD Student, Integrative Biology


Janet Torres

PhD student, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning


Kelly Daniela Norris

PhD student/GSI, Film & Media


Jocelyn Saidenberg

PhD candidate, Comparative Literature


Ariel Wind

GSI and PhD Candidate, Spanish and Portuguese


Alina Predescu

PhD Candidate, Film & Media


Omi Salas-SantaCruz

PhD Student/GSI/ School of Education


Adam Jadhav

PhD student, instructor, Geography


Caitlin Scholl

GSI, Comparative Literature

162 thoughts on “Some “Forms of Speech . . . Are Not Protected”: Berkeley Professors Call For Boycott Of Free Speech Week”

  1. People who attend university for the most part are young adults. If these young adults are so ill equipped to handle opposing views I can only ponder two contributing factors.

    1. The universities screening process is lacking. The university can admit any one they want but that admission should only be given provided the enrollee is well adjusted and emotionally stable. By not determining this before admittance, the university jeopardizes other students.

    2. The education system is at minimum culpable of stifling emotional development of a large number of their students. Emotional maturity is a hallmark trait that determines success in any educational environment.

    Thankfully their is a cure. Stop coddling these young adults and tell them to grow up.

  2. Well, this is only going to get worse:

    A new survey published by The Brookings Institution finds that about one-in-five undergraduate students approve of using violence to shut down controversial speakers.

    A majority of undergraduate students at U.S. four-year colleges and universities also agreed with a hypothetical protest in which a group “opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker.”

    According to the survey, 51 percent of students agreed that such a demonstration would be acceptable, while 49 percent disagreed. Not surprisingly, the response to the hypothetical scenario was also largely partisan, with 62 percent of Democrats approving of the protest, compared to just 39 percent of Republicans .

    “I find the numbers in the above table to be highly concerning, because they show that a very significant fraction of students, across all categories, believe it is acceptable to silence (by shouting) a speaker they find offensive,” wrote John Villasenor, the author of the survey and a Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow.

    The study further found that 19 percent of responders said that they approved of using violence “to prevent the speaker from speaking.” An 81 percent majority, on the other hand, did not approve of the violent approach.

    “A surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive,” Villasenor wrote.

    While 39 percent of responders indicated that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, 44 percent said that it is not protected by the document. Another 16 percent remained undecided.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  3. I wonder if these snowflake “professors” with their heads in the clouds consider the fact that I (and others) refer to their place as “Berserkley” a microaggression, or possibly something worse? How fragile do they have to be? Except when it comes to picking up the baseball bats and bicycle racks to throw through the windows on their campus.

    On a related note, I’m surprised that the university didn’t schedule Free Speech Week to coincide with Spring Break Week.

  4. Someone needs to tell Dumb Dave that this isn’t Twitter. Maybe he doesn’t have enough vocabulary to exceed 140 characters.

  5. Is anybody else tired of the prissy little brats without social upbringing trying to act like adults? They use sex, racism, foul language, destruction of others property, and dress like slobs telling the American tax payer what they want. Perhaps they need to be taught what the word NO means? Most do not need college or university life, they need jobs. TRADE SCHOOLS are needed desperately, there are very few qualified people that know a trade and can excel in it! A real American stands on their own two feet and does not have to be lead like a bull by the nose by professors, politicians, or influenced by low life Hollywood. Realize that all the toys (texting, video games, tv, music, ect.) are to distract you from what the corrupt want to do to America.

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